August 2015 Updates

Summer is winding down, and August comes to a close.  It was a busy month for me, as they all are, but I had extra to do in terms of work.  Indeed, I got a temporary new job, so to speak, and I’ll detail that later.  More importantly, I stayed the course and had another exceedingly productive month.

At the end of July, I gave the following goals.  Let’s see how I did.

  • keep stretching, don’t regress!
  • train 22+ hours of chess
  • finish chess course, ‘Your Winning Plan
  • get Tactic’s Rating back to 1975
  • write at least 35,000 words (which will bring my three month total over 100,000!)

Flexibility Update

I continue to stretch, hoping to get my goal of the splits before the New Year.

Splits1 Sept 15 Splits1 August 15

Am I lower?  I don’t think so, but my shoulders are below the top of my desk, whereas last month my shoulders were much higher.  I could also simply be leaning forward, or be closer to the camera, or have the camera itself sit in a different spot.

Really, last month was the lowest I’ve ever felt, and today does not have the same feeling.

Splits3 Sept 15 Splits3 August

Am I lower?  No, not even close.  I was much lower and with a straighter back last month.  The rear legs are similar in terms of angle to the ground, but the front leg is higher.  This is my strong side, which makes me sad.

Splits2 Sept 15 Splits2 August

This one is more of a wash.  I doubt I’m lower, but I’m more square, which makes it harder.  It’s about even, really.

Last month, at least on photo day, was perhaps my most flexible day ever.  Seriously, I felt so good.  This month didn’t feel bad, but it didn’t feel the same.  On the plus side, I appear more toned this month, as my chest and shoulders in the middle split photo seem far more defined.  Strength and flexibility rarely advance together, so maybe that plays a part.

Still, I’ve improved since the beginning of the year, and I still have over 100 days until the end of the year, but it would be nice to see more constant progress in these photos.

Chess Update

I won three games at chess.com during August, including this one that I analyzed as my Game of the Month.  I also beat a 1700 rated player quite easily over two games, which balloons my rating to 1861 total.  Again, back when I played serious chess, I never got much above 1800, so I’m continually improving here.

In terms of tactics, here’s my rating graph:

I started quite badly, then slowly increased, then roughly stayed the same, then greatly increased over the last week.  I spent half of the last five days being around or just over 2000, including 2004 entering today … when I then failed four out of five problems and dropped down to 1978 … which is still above my goal of 1975 set in July!  Success!

More importantly for my chess progress, I finished GM Igor Smirnov’s course ‘Your Winning Plan’ this month, yesterday in fact.  As you can imagine, this course covers planning, and I’ll have a review of it up this week.  It’s not Smirnov’s best course, but it’s a vital topic that, honestly, I’m not very good at.

I timed my study sessions all month, and I did just over 24hours of chess study this month, 90% of it devoted to ‘Your Winning Plan.’  I thus beat my goal of 22+ hours of chess study!  Booya!  Not quite an hour a day, but quality study is better than just phoning in an hour each day.  I’m certainly happy.

Writing Update

Prepare to get shocked.  August has been perhaps my best writing month since … ever.

‘To Go’ updates in realtime in my spreadsheet, telling me how much ‘to go’ until I beat last month’s total. Here, a positive number says I beat it, so that’s good.

That’s not a typo.  I wrote nearly twice as much as July, averaging just under 2,000 words a day, and it includes writing an unbelievable 4,500 words in a single day.  That’s barely believable.  In fact, I checked back through my records, and I’ve written 4,000+ words only six times in my life, with three of them coming from university.  Two of those days came this month.

You might now be saying, wait a minute, there were no 4,000-word epic blog posts this month.  Where did all this writing come from?  Good observation.  I’d wager half of this month’s total went to this blog and the other half went into a book I helped write.

GM Igor Smirnov is writing a book, and he advertised his need for an editor.  I applied, and he accepted.  I joined his team and helped write his book.  It’s nearly done, and the book should be published soon, which blows me away.  My writing will be published.  Wow.  That still seems surreal.

Anyway, my huge 4,000+ word days were because of this writing project.  I will write a post about it in the coming days.  By the way, Smirnov picked me, in part, because I had a blog with a lot of writing content on it.  He could see the quality of my writing and judged it appropriate.  In other words, my blog helped me get a job.  That’s even more surreal.

Taking a step back, I’ve written over 100,000 words since blogging every day, and I feel like I’m just getting warmed up.  Writing every day feels good; it makes my day complete, even on the days when it is a struggle.  I also completely destroyed my goal of 35,000 words, so much so that I don’t know how I will top this month going forward.

Goals for Next Month

September is interesting, as school restarts and my work schedule changes accordingly.  I will have less free time, but I want to keep my momentum.  The following goals seem appropriate:

  • keep stretching!
  • get chess tactics rating over 2000 again
  • start new Smirnov course, put in 24+ hours of study again
  • write 35,000+ words, averaging over 1,000 a day

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